VET’S DIARY: The bad news that horse owners don’t want to hear


It is a horse owner’s worst fear to hear that strangles has reared its ugly head in the area, writes Stephen Bradley.

Unfortunately there have been several outbreaks in south-east Northumberland in the past few weeks.

Several yards have been affected and have had cases confirmed by sending samples to vet labs for testing for the bacteria that causes strangles.

It is one of the most contagious diseases of horses and spreads quickly like cold and flu in people.

Affected horses have swollen glands, high temperatures and profuse nasal discharges and can have burst abscesses under the jaw.

It is pus from abscesses and nasal discharges which cause spread of infection.

Horses usually recover within a few weeks, but a small number develop complications if abscesses form internally and burst inside the body.

The most important thing if strangles occurs on a yard is to contain it so further spread is avoided. Isolation of the affected horse is vital and strict barriers should be set up.

Movement of horses on or off the yard should be stopped until the disease has been eliminated and any affected horses been tested negative.

Other horses on the yard should be closely monitored for signs such as swollen glands under the jaw or nasal discharge.

Daily temperature checks should be taken from all horses on the yard to identify new infections as the temperature goes up before any other signs are seen.

Vaccination is available and has been strongly used by unaffected yards in the area to provide herd immunity against the disease.

Blood sampling is available to test horses to check if they have been exposed to strangles. This can be done before introducing a new horse onto a yard to avoid bringing in a horse which is quietly carrying the disease.

The test can also be used to identify potential carriers after an outbreak on a yard. These can then be treated to avoid starting the infection all over again.

Once a yard is strangles-free, the aim will be to prevent the disease from coming in again by a combination of vaccination and blood sampling incoming horses.

We are happy to discuss a bespoke health plan for your yard including strangles eradication and prevention. Give us a call on 01670 897597 to discuss further or visit